DDespite being the largest flying bird in North America, with a wingspan of up to three meters, you would have been hard-pressed to see a California condor in the wild in the 1980s. effort to save the birds, after decades of persecution and population collapse, the few survivors were captured in 1987 for an intensive multi-million dollar conservation program.
Today, there are more than 200 in the wild, and local people are already starting to take notice. In May 2021, about 10% of the Golden State’s entire bird population decided to roost on a woman’s home in Tehachapi, Southern California, damaging her patio with “feces from concrete guy”, an incident that went viral on Twitter when his daughter posted photos.
Amid ominous warnings about the collapse of Earth’s web of life and the consequences for human civilization, the California condor has become a powerful symbol of what conservation can achieve.
Several studies have shown that the continuous decline of biodiversity in the world is not inevitable. Along with the California condor, the Iberian lynx, Przewalski’s horse and Puerto Rican Amazon parrot are among 48 species saved from extinction by conservationists.
A new measure released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) last year, known as the green status of species, is helping scientists chart a course for the recovery of endangered animals and plants, and not only to stop their extinction. He believes the California condor, although still listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, has the potential for a “significant rebound over the next century” in its range. previous distribution, from British Columbia to Baja California, giving hope to many more. one million species threatened with extinction.
“The risk of extinction, which we’ve used to measure conservation progress for decades, is a very absolute thing. A species is either threatened with extinction or it is not. Recovery, however, is relative,” says Molly Grace, a researcher at the University of Oxford who led the development of the IUCN Green Status Tool. “Each species exists in different abundances and different distributions across the planet, so recovery must be measured in relative terms.”
The pink pigeon, burrowing bettong and Sumatran rhinoceros were among the first 181 species to be assessed by 200 scientists from 171 institutions as part of the decade-long effort to develop the green status metric, which examined historical population size, current distribution, success of past conservation efforts, and viable habitat.
The road to recovery is precarious. For the California condor, lead poisoning due to accidental ingestion of bullets used by hunters remains a threat and is responsible for approximately 50% of all known causes of bird death. The heavy metal builds up in their bodies over time when they eat carrion, which means they often don’t survive, even when treated.
California became the first state to ban lead ammunition to protect wildlife, in 2019, while in Arizona and Utah, where condors have been reintroduced around vermilion cliffs, hunters buying big game permits have received $50 of unleaded. ammunition to help protect the birds.
Just as in South America, where the condor is an important Inca symbol alongside the puma and the serpent, America’s largest wild birds are sacred in California. In the upstate, the Yurok people are working with authorities to continue their recovery.
Joseph L James, Chairman of the Yurok Tribe, told the Guardian earlier this year: “The reintroduction of Condor is a concrete manifestation of our cultural commitment to restoring and protecting the planet for future generations.
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